Many law firms overlook a free source of critical marketing data. Law firms and other service providers benefit from understanding their clients and referral sources as well as they can. And yet, in my experience as a business consultant to lawyers and law firms, very few firms take advantage of the wealth of demographic information that is stored in one five-digit number.
The zip code.
It can make your marketing efforts far more effective, but I’ve almost never met a small or mid-sized firm that collected and analyzed zip code information relating to where clients and referral sources live and work.
You might be wondering what’s the big deal about zip codes. Plenty. Zone Improvement Plan codes were introduced in 1963 to streamline mail delivery by the postal service. An additional four digits were added to the codes in 1983. There are now approximately 42,000 codes.
The Census Bureau has for many years collected and disseminated a vast array of data that is tied to zip codes. This information is searchable through the Bureau’s American FactFinder portal. See https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml
Thus, if you know the zip code where someone lives works, or goes to school, you can collect a lot of information about them and their community, including its demographic and economic profile, as well as specific information about income, average household size, and educational attainment. Moreover, private companies sell more detailed analyses that includes information about political and religious affiliation, purchasing habits, and other characteristics that allow direct mail companies and others to pinpoint their marketing efforts.
So how should law firms use zip code information?
The answer depends on the nature of the practice and the geographic scope of its best clients. An AmLaw 200 firm that serves global corporations may have less use for zip codes than a firm that serves local businesses or individuals. For the AmLaw 200 firm, the most important geographic consideration might be where the General Counsel works. And that information doesn’t require a detailed zip code analysis.
But almost every law firm is likely to benefit from analyzing the geographic distribution of its referral sources. One easy way to begin to find out where your best referral sources live and work, and show that on a map. This analysis can be performed for an individual lawyer’s book of business, a practice area’s results, or for the entire firm.
So, for example, the next time a law firm wants to know where a reception should take place for its alumni, or what business networking events junior partner should attend, don’t guess. Take the time to see where your best alumni referral sources live and work and use that data to make an informed decision. Zip code analysis formation can also be helpful in in recruiting or when deciding where to open a new office location.
Zip code analysis is an accessible, low cost, and powerful tool. And if you didn’t previously know how zip code analysis can help a law firm, now you do.